Carry-On Backpacks for Travellers – Top Picks!

The Best Carry-on Bag for International Travel is the Osprey Farpoint & Fairview


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Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40
#1 Carry-on Backpack
  • Easy to pack
  • 40-litre capacity 
  • Available in men's (Farpoint) and women's (Fairview) models 
Pacsafe Venturesafe 45
#2 Carry-on Backpack
  • Packed full of anti-theft features
  • 45-litre capacity 
  • Made from recycled materials 
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
#3 Carry-on Backpack
  • Expandable
  • Capacity from 30 to 45 litres 
  • Packed with features to make travel easier

Hand luggage is often overlooked. Whether you’re opting for the one-bag style of travel or looking to maximise how much to take on a given trip, choosing the right carry-on backpack is an important decision. 

Cabin baggage comes in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and styles – and airlines have a wide variety of rules, regulations, size and weight limits! To ensure you have the best carry-on backpack for you, we’ve picked out a range of well-performing travel bags that fit within the average hand luggage limits for international airlines! 


Carry-On Sizes for International Airlines:

After analysing more than 60 international airlines, we’ve concluded that the average carry-on limits are as follows:
Average Carry-On Size: 22 x 14 x 9.5 inches | 56 x 35 x 24cm – However this varies between airlines so double-check with your airline to make sure your bag will fit! 
Average Personal Item Size: 17 x 12 x 8 inches | 43 x 30 x 20cm – This varies even more than carry-on specs so be sure to check!
Average Weight Limit for Carry-On Bags: 7-12kg – It varies a lot between airlines so be sure to check when buying your ticket. A few airlines have a much higher hand luggage weight limit, up to 20kg+ in some instances, while others are lower at around 6kg. It’s worth noting that some airlines give you a combined weight limit for both your carry-on luggage and personal item, while others give a dedicated weight limit for each.
Be aware though, these are just average limits. They can differ by a lot depending on the airline so ensure you check directly when booking your ticket!

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The Best Carry-On Bags for Travel

Carry-On Backpacks for One Bag Travel

The following carry-on backpacks are multipurpose. They can be used with a larger checked bag if you’re travelling with a lot of gear, or in conjunction with a smaller personal item if you don’t want to check a bag. 

The most common use for many of these backpacks is for one-bag travel. They’re big enough for light-packing travellers to use for months on end while still being allowed as international carry-on! 


Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40

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Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40

Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40

  • Updated Models – Ospreys 40-litre Farpoint and Fairview backpacks were top-rated backpacks when initially released, but they had their flaws. As of 2022, Osprey released the upgraded versions of these bags which took customer concerns onboard and brought the bags back in line with some of the more expensive hand luggage options. The new models have vaulted the osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40 back to the top of our favourite carry-on backpacks list!
  • Fairpoint vs Fairview – The Farpoint and Fairview bags are almost identical. The difference is in the back panel, suspension system and the shape of the straps. The Farpoint is traditionally for men while the Fairview is built as a women's backback.
  • Easy To Pack – The Farpoint and Fairview open clamshell style, making it easy to utilise the full 40-litre capacity. The bags are right on the limit for average hand luggage specification, so you'll be hard-pressed to find a bag that lets you take more as carry-on. They feature a huge main compartment, a front 'shove it' pocket and a quick access top pocket.
  • Ease Of Use – Padded grab handles on the top and side of the bags make them easy to manoeuvre through airports and into overhead lockers. A padded laptop sleeve keeps your computer protected. On the new models, this laptop sleeve is against your back which is a huge improvement on the old versions.
Pros
  • A big improvement on the previous models
  • Maximises carry-on space
  • Super comfortable
Cons
  • No proper water bottle pocket
  • Limited organisational options
  • The top pocket is hard to use when the bag is full

55 Litre Models

The 55-litre versions of both the Farpoint and Fairview include a 40-litre base pack with a detachable 15-litre daypack. The base pack is carry-on size and the daypack is small enough to be a personal item. This means you can use the full 55-litre capacity as hand luggage. However, the pocket placement on the 55-litre setup differs and is harder to use than the standalone 40-litre bags. The best option if you want a 40-litre Osprey bag and daypack combo is to get the 40-litre model and get an Osprey daypack separately. 

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45

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Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45

Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45

  • Price Range: $$$$$
  • Dimensions: 55 x 33 x 20cm | 22 x 13 x 8 inches
  • Weight: 1.7kg
  • Capacity: 45 Litres 
  • Read More:Best Anti-theft Backpacks 
  • Theft-proof — Pacsafe’s Venturesafe is a theft-proof carry-on backpack. It’s packed full of anti-theft features to help keep your gear safe from opportunistic thieves. There’s a Roobar deluxe locking system and puncture-resistant zips to ensure your bag remains sealed. The eXomesh Slashguard lining prevents slash-and-run thefts and the bag comes with a locking cable, so you can secure it to non-movable objects.
  • Organisation — The bag opens clamshell-style and features a massive main compartment with internal compression straps to prevent your stuff moving too much in transit. The front pocket contains a bunch of hidey holes for smaller items as well as a padded laptop sleeve. However, we prefer to see a laptop sleeve that sits against your back when wearing the bag as it makes for better weight distribution.
  • Comfortable — The Venturesafe houses an internal frame which helps to distribute the weight of your gear. The straps are relatively comfortable, although not the best we’ve ever tested. They stow away when not in use to make the bag more streamlined. External compression straps help compress the bag too, reducing the overall size!
  • Made From Recycled Materials — The Venturesafe EXP45 is made from recycled nylon. The fabric is created from discarded fishing nets and plastic bottles! 
Pros
  • Packed full of anti-theft features
  • Made with recycled nylon
  • Suitcase style opening 
Cons
  • Laptop sleeve placement isn't against your back 
  • All the security features are overkill for some travellers

Peak Design Travel Backpack

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Peak Design Travel Backpack

Peak Design Travel Backpack

  • Price Range: $$$$$
  • Dimensions: 56 x 33 x 24cm | 22 x 13 x 9.5 inches (in 35-litre mode)
  • Weight: 2kg
  • Capacity: 30-45 litres 
  • Expanding — Expandable from 30-45 litres, the Travel Bag from Peak Design is an all-in-one option. As standard, the bag is 35 litres but features a 10-litre expandable section and a 5-litre compressible panel. In both the 30 and 35-litre modes the Travel Bag is suitable for carry-on but when fully expanded, it’s too big.
  • Packing — The bag features a giant main compartment which has easy access from the front, back or sides of the bag – meaning no matter how you pack or carry it, you’ll be able to get at your gear when needed. The front opening also features an organisational panel which can be hidden away when not in use. At the top, the bag has a soft pocket for smaller items like your sunglasses, passport, wallet, etc. There are also hidden pockets and padded sleeves for your laptop and tablet. Large side pockets are perfect for water bottles, tripods and other gear you want to stow externally.
  • Lash Points — Peak Design make it easy to attach gear to the outside of your bag. Lash points and stowable straps are included with the bag!
  • Manoeuvrability — The Travel Bag has grab handles on almost every available surface, including the back panel. You can easily get the bag in and out of small overhead lockers and through airport security checks. The padded shoulder straps and hip belt are quick to stow when not needed.
Pros
  • Built for photographers
  • Packed full of features 
Cons
  • There's a learning curve to use all the features
  • Too big for carry-on when fully expanded
  • Limited ventilation on the back panel 

Tropicfeel Shell

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Tropicfeel Shell

Tropicfeel Shell

  • Price Range: $$$$$
  • Dimensions: 51 x 30 x 19cm | 20 x 12 x 7.5 inches (with the shoe compartment stowed)
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • Capacity: 22-42 litres
  • Read More:Tropicfeel Shell Review
  • Expandable — The Shell Backpack by Tropicfeel is expandable from 22 to 42 litres. Although, when fully expanded, you won’t be able to use the shoe pouch as this adds 9cm to the overall height, making the bag too tall for hand luggage. Without the shoe pouch, it fits fine, so we recommend either cramming those spare shoes into the main pocket or stuffing them in your personal item bag until you get off the plane.
  • Packing — The Tropicfeel Shell is top loading but also has a zip-able back panel, allowing you to open the bag clamshell style for easy organisation. The bag is primarily made up of one large compartment but also features a padded laptop sleeve, a quick access pocket in the lid and two hidden pockets – one on the front and one on the back.
  • Materials — The bag is weatherproof. It’s made from 100% recycled nylon and more than 60% recycled polyester. It’s super durable too, handling the rigours of travel with ease. The shoulder straps are firm but cushioned and the sternum strap is adjustable. There’s also a stowable hip strap which comes in handy if it’s a long walk from the airport to your accommodation! 
Pros
  • Expandable
  • Durable
  • Comfortable 
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Accessories are an added cost
  • Not carry-on size if shoe pouch is in use

Stubble and Co Adventure Bag

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Stubble & Co Adventure Backpack

Stubble & Co Adventure Backpack

  • 42 Litres – The Stubble and Co Adventure Bag is one of the best examples of a large-capacity frameless carry-on backpack. It has a 42-litre capacity with a vast array of interior pockets and compartments for maximum organisation – if you like knowing exactly where everything is while on the road, this is the bag for you!
  • Update — The bag has had a big upgrade since its first model, which has been met with critical acclaim. The water bottle pocket is no longer internal and the shoe compartment is a much more distinct part of the bag.
  • Organisation — Inside, the bag features five unique compartments. Four are separated with zippered mesh screens and one is completely waterproof for storing shoes. You can access one of these compartments from the outside – use it for items you’ll need in a hurry or for storing liquids, so you can get to them at the airport.
  • Frameless — The bag has no frame which means it’s prone to strange lumps if you don’t pack it well. Likewise, it doesn’t spread the weight of your gear as effectively as a framed backpack, nor does it hold its shape unless it’s full. However, the frameless nature keeps the weight down and makes the bag easy to store when not in use. It also allows you to cinch the bag down to ensure it fits within carry-on specifications.
Pros
  • Loads of organisational options
  • Very comfortable
  • Made with a range of recycled materials 
Cons
  • Doesn't hold its shape very well if it's not full
  • A few centimetres too wide for many airline's carry-on limits
  • Expensive 

Cotopaxi Allpa Del Dia 35

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Cotopaxi Allpa Del Dia 35

Cotopaxi Allpa Del Dia 35

  • Price Range: $$$$
  • Dimensions: 56 x 30 x 25cm | 22 x 12 x 9.5 inches
  • Weight: 1.4kg
  • Capacity: 35 litres 
  • Saves Fabric From Landfill — The Cotopaxi Allpa 35 Del Dia is made from (Re)Purpose fabric. This is left over from other backpack manufacturers and would normally end up in landfill. Cotopaxi ‘rescue’ the material and use it to make their Del Dia bags! It prevents waste and saves you a bit of money as the Del Dia model is cheaper than the regular version. Plus, because the fabric is left over, Cotopaxi have no control over the colour meaning you can expect to stand out from the crowd – every Del Dia pack is unique!
  • Size — The Allpa 35 is technically 1cm too wide to fit into average carry-on specs but as long as it’s not full to bursting – aka is compressible – you’ll be fine.
  • Pockets — Cotopaxi’s Allpa 35 features multiple pockets and organisational options. It opens clamshell-style to reveal two main internal compartments separated by mesh dividers, as well as places for smaller gear. The padded laptop sleeve and tablet compartment is accessed by a side zipper. There’s a generous quick-access pocket that can store a bunch of items like a packable coat, stowable backpack and other accessories. It also has smaller mesh compartments for items like your passport or wallet.
  • Handles — Grab handles on each side make the bag easy to manoeuvre onto airport scanners and stow in overhead lockers. The hip belt is removable and the shoulder straps can be tucked away behind the back panel to make the bag as streamlined as possible when in transit. 
Pros
  • Made from repurposed materials 
  • Loads of organisational options
  • Durable
Cons
  • No load lifters so tough to get a customised fit
  • No exterior water bottle pocket
  • Frameless

Other Sizes

Cotopaxi also have 28 and 42-litre versions of this bag. The 28 is generally too big for a personal item but makes an excellent carry-on bag if you’ve checked your main pack. The 42-litre model is too big for most international carry-on limits but may be okay if your airline is particularly generous! 

Osprey Porter 46

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Osprey Porter 46

Osprey Porter 46

  • Price Range: $$$
  • Dimensions: 55 x 36 x 23cm | 21.5 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • Capacity: 46 litres
  • Massive Capacity — Osprey’s Porter 46 is often touted as the largest carry-on compatible backpack available. Its 46-litre capacity truly maximises your carry-on allowance but can feel a little unwieldy on your back.
  • Packability — The bag features a HUGE main compartment which holds an impressive amount of gear and also houses some smaller mesh pockets. The large U-zip front panel means you get full access to all your gear, making it easy to arrange within the bag. There’s a large external access pocket as well as a padded laptop compartment that is accessed via a side zip.
  • Compression Wings — On the outside, this Osprey backpack has a StraightJacket compression system. These large padded wings protect your gear and keep the bag as streamlined as possible. When the bag isn’t full, they work very well to shrink the overall size.
  • Eco-friendly — The Porter is made from Blue Sign-approved, recycled materials, so you can enjoy using this bag safe in the knowledge it hasn’t cost the earth! 
Pros
  • Maximises carry-on space
  • Massive main compartment
  • Good organisational options
Cons
  • Right on the carry-on limits for most airlines
  • Feels bulky when full
  • Hip belt cannot be stowed when using the shoulder straps 

Eagle Creek Caldera International Carry On

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Eagle Creek Caldera International Carry On

Eagle Creek Caldera International Carry On

  • Price Range: $$$$$$$$$
  • Dimensions: 55 x 35 x 21.5cm | 21.5 x 13.5 x 8.5 inches (with the daypack removed)
  • Weight: 2.6kg
  • Capacity: 37 litres
  • Read More:Best Backpacks With Wheels 
  • Convertible — Eagle Creek’s Caldera International Carry-On is a fine example of convertible carry-on luggage. It’s a two-in-one system. The 37-litre main bag is a wheeled backpack – meaning you can carry it like a backpack or use it like a suitcase! It also comes with a detachable 19-litre daypack which can be carried onto a plane as your personal item. With the daypack attached, the Caldera is too big to be carry-on approved but with it removed, it fits into the average requirements!
  • The Bags — The main bag is nothing more than a large main pocket for the bulk of your gear. It has compression straps to keep your luggage in place. The daypack has a padded laptop sleeve, capable of holding a 15-inch machine, as well as smaller mesh pockets for items you may need in a hurry. It’s big enough to use as a daypack while travelling, so you don’t need to pack an extra bag!
  • Weight — The Caldera is comfortable to carry as a backpack but feels very heavy, especially if you have the daypack attached. You can clip the daypack to your front while carrying the main pack which helps even out the weight distribution but you’ll still feel the strain.
  • Cost — The biggest downside of this setup is the price. It’s one of the most expensive options available and you can achieve similar results for far less money! 
Pros
  • It's a backpack with wheels
  • Can pull it along behind you like a suitcase
  • Features a detachable daypack
Cons
  • Very expensive
  • Heavy
  • Attaching the daypack can be tricky

AER Travel Pack 3

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AER Travel Pack 3

AER Travel Pack 3

  • Price Range: $$$$$
  • Dimensions: 54.5 x 33 x 21.5cm | 21.5 x 13 x 9 inches 
  • Weight: 1.8kg
  • Capacity: 35 litres
  • Size — At 35 litres, the AER Travel Pack 3 is big enough for light-packing travellers – especially when combined with a personal item. Compression straps help keep the bag streamlined, even when it’s packed full!
  • Organisation — The Travel Pack 3 opens like a suitcase, offering plenty of space in the main compartment for the bulk of your gear. It features a bunch of smaller pockets for keeping your stuff organised and a padded laptop sleeve with an integrated pocket for your charger – something that’s almost always overlooked by backpack manufacturers!
  • Comfort — The Travel Pack 3 has thick padded shoulder straps. These are stiff initially but don’t take too long to break in. This version of the bag features load lifters too which is a big upgrade on the Travel Pack 2 and makes the V3 a much more comfortable carry experience. There’s also an internal frame sheet which helps distribute the weight of your gear across your body. Disappointingly for a bag in this price range, the hip belt isn’t included but is available to buy separately.
  • Blends In — AER are known for their sleek, professional-looking backpacks and the Travel Pack 3 is no different. Available in three unobtrusive colours and an X-pac version, this bag blends in across a variety of settings. 
Pros
  • Loads of pockets and organisational options
  • Comfortable
  • Sleek
Cons
  • Hip belt is sold separately 
  • Not the most breathable back panel
  • Water bottle pocket doesn't hold smaller bottles very well

Monarc Setra Duffel

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Monarc Settra Duffel

Monarc Settra Duffel

  • Convertible — The Setra Duffel Bag from Monarc is one of the best pieces of convertible hand luggage we’ve ever seen. It can transform from a duffel bag into a backpack and although the process is a bit fiddly, it doesn’t take long and can be completed whether the bag is full or empty!
  • Comfort — The bag is comfortable to carry in both duffel and backpack mode – a rarity for convertible carry-on bags! The main handle is well-padded and the duffel strap is basic but fully adjustable. The backpack straps and hip belt feature a nice amount of padding and the back panel is far more comfortable than a convertible bag deserves! There are also a couple of padded grab handles.
  • Pockets — Unlike other duffel bags, the Setra has a range of pockets and locations for organising smaller gear. The main compartment is huge and there’s a fully removable shoe compartment. The laptop sleeve is very well padded and can hold a 17-inch machine. However, it’s located at the very bottom of the bag when in duffel mode so be careful not to drop the bag onto the floor!
  • Plastic Negative — Monarc’s Setra Duffel is certified plastic negative, meaning they remove more plastic from the environment than they use in the production of the bag – which is made of recycled plastic anyway!
  • Size – Unfortunately, when packed full, the Setra Duffel is a little too big for most hand luggage limits. However, as long as it’s not crammed full, the bag compresses enough to get in within the specifications. 
Pros
  • Convertible from duffel to backpack
  • Comfortable in backpack and duffel modes
  • Shoe compartment is fully removable
Cons
  • Too big for average international carry-on
  • Laptop sleeve placement 
  • Converting into backpack mode is a bit of a faff

Nomatic Travel Bag

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Nomatic Travel Bag

Nomatic Travel Bag

  • Price Range: $$$$$$
  • Dimensions: 53 x 35 x 22cm | 21 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 1.5kg
  • Capacity: 40 litres
  • Square — The Nomatic 40-litre Travel Bag – or Gomatic if you’re in Europe – fully maximises the usable space. The bag’s square shape means you can pack gear right into every corner of the bag, without worrying about small, awkwardly shaped nooks and crannies.
  • Clamshell Opening — Loading and organising your luggage is a breeze with the Nomatic Travel Bag. The clamshell opening means you can see and organise everything with ease. The padded laptop sleeve sits against your back while you wear the bag so, the weight distribution is excellent – there’s a dedicated tablet sleeve here too.
  • Compartments — The Travel Bag houses several organisational compartments. There’s a space for your shoes, a pocket for your underwear, an internal water bottle pocket, a couple of quick access pockets as well as an entire suite of hidey holes for smaller items. While these make organising your belongings easier, they eat into the main compartment, reducing the usable volume.
  • Convertible — Nomatic’s Travel Bag features a unique strap design that allows you to efficiently convert it from a backpack to a duffel bag. However, this system takes some getting used to and due to the bag’s wide shape, it’s challenging to carry as a duffel. There are grab handles on the top and bottom of the bag, making it easy to lug in and out of overhead lockers. 
Pros
  • Easy to pack and organise
  • Fully maximises carry-on space
  • Comes with a laundry bag to keep dirty clothes separate from the rest of your gear
Cons
  • Internal compartments get in the way of interior space
  • Not great in duffel mode
  • Straps have a bit of a learning curve

The Best Carry-On Backpacks to Use With Checked Luggage

These bags all make excellent carry-on packs for when you’re travelling with a larger checked bag. They’re generally too big to use as a personal item but double up perfectly as a daypack when you arrive at your destination! 


Stubble and Co Roll Top

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Stubble and Co Roll Top

Stubble and Co Roll Top

  • Price Range: $$$
  • Dimensions: 44 x 30 x 15cm | 17 x 12 x 6 inches 
  • Weight: 900g
  • Capacity: 20 litres
  • Read More:Best Daypacks for Travel
  • 20 Litres — The Roll Top from Stubble and Co makes an excellent carry-on backpack when used alongside a larger checked bag. Its 20-litre capacity is perfect for carrying your essentials and offers enough room for an emergency change of clothes – something we always recommend when checking luggage in case the airline loses your stuff! The downside is its shape. The bag is very thin so packing bulkier items can prove challenging, especially if you’ve got a laptop in the padded sleeve.
  • Top Loader — The bag is top loading, so is harder to organise than packs that open flat, but it features a high contrast inner material, so you can still find your belongings! It has a roll-top closure which is secured by a G-hook. This means if you’re carrying less stuff you can roll the top further to keep the bag as small as possible – likewise, if you’ve got a full bag, it will cope!
  • Waterproof — Stubble and Co’s Roll Top is made of waterproof materials and features aquaguard zippers. This means your stuff will remain safe and dry in all but the worst conditions – just don’t submerge it, it’s not built for that!
  • Comfort — With wide-cut, contoured straps and a breathable, well-cushioned back panel, the Roll Top is super comfortable to wear for extended periods. Even when full of heavy gear! 
Pros
  • Waterproof
  • Very comfortable 
  • Super durable 
Cons
  • Laptop sleeve can be very tight when the bag is full
  • G-hook closure is fiddly
  • Thin shape makes it challenging to pack bulky gear

Salkan Daypack 

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Salkan Daypack

Salkan Daypack

  • Price Range: $$$
  • Dimensions: 48 x 29 x 18cm | 20 x 11.5 x 7 inches
  • Weight: 850g
  • Capacity: 20 litres 
  • Read More:Salkan Backpacker Review
  • Part Of A Combo — The Daypack is built to be used with Salkan’s Main Pack, which it attaches to, but it can be used as a standalone carry-on bag for any large checked luggage.
  • Canvas — The bag is built from a recycled 900D COTNA Polyester canvas. It looks and feels like cotton canvas but is more durable and lighter. It has a wax finish to make it weather resistant and keep your luggage protected from water damage.
  • Packing — When it comes to packing the Salkan Daypack, be aware that it’s smallest at the bottom – pack your heaviest items here if possible. Otherwise, it becomes very top-heavy! The bag is a top loader, so organising your stuff isn’t as easy as with other bags. There’s one internal waterproof pocket as well as a soft-lined sunglasses pocket in the lid. The laptop sleeve is well padded and can be accessed from inside the bag, as well as through an external zip. There’s also a small hidden pocket behind one of the generous water bottle holders – it’s big enough to hold your phone, passport and wallet.
  • Straps — The bag is comfortable to wear, although the straps can be a little constricting if you’ve got broad shoulders. The breathable back panel is firm enough to act as a frame but padded enough to prevent discomfort. 
Pros
  • Dual-entry laptop pocket
  • Generous water bottle pockets
  • Ultra-durable 
Cons
  • Top heavy when full
  • G-hooks can be fiddly 

Cotopaxi Luzon 18L Del Dia 

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Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia 18L

Cotopaxi Luzon Del Dia 18L

  • Price Range: $$
  • Dimensions: 51 x 34 x 12cm | 20 x 11 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 300g
  • Capacity: 18 litres
  • Read More: Best Packable Daypacks
  • Lightweight — Cotopaxi’s Luzon 18L Del Dia is one of the best lightweight carry-on bags available. Clocking in at just 300g, it barely registers on the scales! There’s no internal frame, so you need to be careful to pack the bag well, otherwise, you’ll feel both the weight and shape of your belongings in your back! The plus side of having no frame is that when you’re not using the bag, it’s super easy to cram away into a small space – including into a larger travel bag!
  • Top Loader — It’s a top-loading bag and features a drawstring closure. This is easy to use but some of you may be concerned about the security of such a system. As long as you keep the bag close, you’ll be fine but as with all personal belongings, keep an eye on it and don’t leave it unattended.
  • Organisation — The main compartment of this bag is little more than one large pocket. It only has a water bladder sleeve, which you could use to hold a small laptop or tablet if you’ve not got a water bladder. On the outside, the bag features a front zip pocket you can use to store items like a wallet and passport.
  • (Re)Purpose Ripstop Nylon — Like other Del Dia bags from Cotopaxi, the Luzon is made from (Re)Purpose materials. These are left over from the manufacturing runs of giant backpack producers and would end up in landfill if not rescued by Cotopaxi. The fabric comes in a wide (and uncontrollable) range of colours so every Cotopaxi Del Dia bag is unique!
Pros
  • Lightweight
  • Can be packed right down when not in use
  • Made from repurposed fabric 
Cons
  • No frame
  • No water bottle pocket 

Bearmade Gothwaite 18-23 litre

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Bearmade Gothwaite 18-23 litre

Bearmade Gothwaite 18-23 litre

  • Price Range: $$$$$
  • Dimensions: 50 x 30 x 12cm | 19 x 12 x 5 inches 
  • Weight: 1.1kg
  • Capacity: 18-23 litres
  • Read More:Sustainable Bags for Travel 
  • Sustainable — The Gothwaite Backpack is sustainably made from GOTS-certified organic dry-waxed cotton – it’s waterproof and hardwearing. Each Bearmade backpack comes with a lifetime guarantee and free repairs for any issues resulting from workmanship or materials.
  • Roll Top — The Gothwaite Backpack is roll top, allowing it to expand from 18-23 litres depending on how much space you need. The closure buckle is originally built for rock climbers and is super durable – it’s a load-bearing buckle that can hold the weight of multiple humans!
  • Pockets —Inside the bag, you’ll find a large main compartment with a laptop sleeve and a couple of mesh pouches. However, due to the bag’s thin shape, it can be challenging to pack bulkier gear.
  • Price — The Gothwaite Backpack from Bearmade is one of the most expensive small carry-on bags we’ve come across. However, for that price, you get a carry-on bag for life! 
Pros
  • Sustainably made
  • Super durable
  • Free lifetime repairs for defects in workmanship or materials
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Not always available
  • Heavy for its size

What to Look for When Choosing a Carry-On Backpack

That It’s Actually Carry On Size

First and foremost, if your carry-on bag isn’t actually within carry-on specifications, you’re running the gauntlet of expensive baggage fees every time you get on a plane! It’s rarely noticed if your bag is a centimetre or two over the hand luggage allowance but travel enough and you’ll get caught eventually – Murphy’s Law says it’ll be that one time you’re already running late for your flight! 

The average carry-on size limit for international airlines is: 22 x 14 x 9.5 inches | 56 x 35 x 24cm. But be aware, this is an average. Some airlines have limits lower than this while some allow larger bags. Make sure to check directly with your airline for the most accurate number. These numbers are a good guide and if your backpack fits within them, you’re unlikely to be stopped and checked by airline staff!

Capacity

Not all carry-on bags are created equal. Some only just scrape into hand luggage limits but can only hold 30 litres of gear, while others fit into the same dimensions but have a capacity of 45 litres! 

There’s much more to the overall capacity of a backpack than the outer dimensions. Make sure your carry-on bag can hold as much as you need it to! 

Comfort

From carrying a small bag through airports to lugging a 45-litre pack around a continent, you’ll need your hand luggage bag to be comfortable. Any backpack that causes pain or discomfort quickly becomes hated and never gets used again! Save yourself the hassle and money required to buy a new backpack by making sure you get a carry-on bag that’s comfortable for you!

At the very least, read as many reviews as you can and opt for a bag that’s well-rated when it comes to comfort. Or, go further and visit some real-life shops to try a few bags on – I know right, in the age of the internet who even goes to shops IRL anymore?!

Durability

It doesn’t matter what size carry-on bag you choose, it’ll end up taking some abuse. Overhead lockers, dirty floors and the constant lifting onto your back all have a detrimental effect on your bag’s construction and lifespan. 

When choosing your carry-on bag, make sure it’s made of good materials and that its durability is well-reviewed. If you’re choosing a bag in person, make sure the stitching looks good – no loose threads or uneven lines – and check to see if the zips and buckles feel rugged. If something feels good quality, it usually is! 

Aesthetics 

Whether you want a simple bag to blend in with the crowd or a bright backpack that lights up a room, there’s a carry-on luggage option for you. A bag you don’t like the look of is unlikely to get used very often – making it a waste of money. Make sure you like the carry-on bag you’re about to buy! 

Organisational Options

Some backpacks for air travel feature little more organisation than one large compartment, while others are chocked full of compartments, pockets and hidey holes. The best for you comes down to personal preference. If you like to have a spot for everything, a bag with more organisational options will be a good idea. But if you prefer less organisation, a more simplistic, minimalist bag is likely to suit you better. 

Weight

The weight of your carry-on bag is super important. Airlines put strict limits on the weight of hand luggage. For international travel, these tend to range from 7-14kg depending on your airline. It’s worth noting that some airlines give a combined weight limit for your hand luggage and personal item while others give a distinct weight limit for each.

Opting for a bag that weighs two kilos while empty eats up a big chunk of your baggage allowance – especially if you’re airline has lower limits to start with! 

Often though, heavier bags are made of more durable materials or are packed with features to help make your travels easier. So, there’s a trade-off between weight and other factors. Choosing the lightest bag you can find isn’t always the best idea for most travellers! 

Price

For most of us, price is one of the most important factors in choosing a carry-on backpack. While there’s often a correlation between quality and price, you shouldn’t worry too much about it. For a good carry-on bag, expect to spend anywhere from $55-$450USD. It’s a vast range and you don’t need to get to the top end unless you need a specialised bag or one made of high-end exotic materials!

Opening and Loading Style 

From duffle bags with a single zip to top-loading travel backpacks or mini suitcases, there’s a huge range of carry-on luggage options. Some of the most popular travel bags feature a clamshell opening style, essentially opening like suitcases, making them super easy to pack and organise. 

You’ll also find carry-on backpacks with front or back opening panels, as well as rucksacks with the traditional zip opening you’ll know from your old school bag! No matter your preference, you’ll find an option that fits your needs! 

Use Case

Some carry-on bags are excellent all-rounders while others are built for specialised uses. Some are made with tech-obsessed digital nomads in mind, featuring a ton of pockets, padding and storage spaces for specific tech items. Others can be used as daypacks or even your general travel bag! What you need the bag to do outside of being airline hand luggage is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing your carry-on bag!


A Round-Up of the Best Carry-On Bags for Travel

No matter whether you’re a one-bag traveller, opting for only hand luggage and a personal item or flying with checked luggage as well as a smaller bag, choosing the best carry-on option is important! 

Our overall favourite carry-on bag is the Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40. These bags are excellent if you only want to travel with hand luggage as they maximise the space while still being comfortable to carry. 

However, if you truly want to maximise carry-on space, we recommend the Osprey Porter. This 46-litre monster can easily hold everything you need for an extended trip! But they aren’t the only options. Osprey produce a wide range of backpacks for travel, so you’re bound to find something to fit your needs from them!

The most versatile option is the Peak Design Travel Backpack. It’s feature packed and expandable – if you’re travelling with only one bag, this is the one to go for! 

If you need a smaller carry-on bag, the Stubble & Co Roll Top is an excellent choice. It’s comfortable, durable and keeps your gear safe from the elements. It also makes a fantastic daypack for when you get to your destination. Another option for a smaller bag is the eco-friendly Cotopaxi Luzon. This unique bag weighs very little and can be compressed down tiny when not needed! 

So, no matter what you’re looking for, there’s a bag on this list to suit you! 

But always remember, you don’t need an expensive bag to go travelling. If you’ve already got a decent backpack, it will likely do the job! Don’t spend your hard-earned travel budget on a new bag just because you think it’s the ‘done thing’!

Osprey Farpoint/Fairview 40
#1 Carry-on Backpack
  • Easy to pack
  • 40-litre capacity 
  • Available in men's (Farpoint) and women's (Fairview) models 
Pacsafe Venturesafe 45
#2 Carry-on Backpack
  • Packed full of anti-theft features
  • 45-litre capacity 
  • Made from recycled materials 
Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L
#3 Carry-on Backpack
  • Expandable
  • Capacity from 30 to 45 litres 
  • Packed with features to make travel easier
Tim Ashdown | Gear Specialist

After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since then, he has travelled Southeast Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and backpacked South America. His first book, From Paralysis to Santiago, chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident and will be released later this year.

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